This Is America: A Returning Missionary’s Perspective

What’s most disturbing about returning from Africa isn’t just the consumerism in American culture, but the consumerism within the American church.

American consumerism has crept into the sacred beliefs of our faith. Rather than understanding that faith in Christ means that he gets our everything, many Americans believe that Jesus is just a nice addition to our already-nice lives. We wouldn’t say that, of course, but our beliefs are exposed in the way we are living.

 

Without a doubt, the absolute coolest thing we have seen during our brave venture back onto American soil is the computerized soda machines at fast food chains.

Yep, that’s it. They blew our tiny minds. Though it took us a solid ten minutes to figure out how the machine worked, our taste buds were pleased and hearts content at our shoving 1,000 calories’ worth of soda down our gullets.

I was the only one left unsatisfied, because, like a complete novice, I chose raspberry diet coke. It was gross, and I learned my lesson. But this is America—so I dumped it out and started over.

Along with us was our Tanzanian colleague, Apollo, who came back to the motherland with us for agricultural training with my husband. It is his first time seeing America, and he has been constantly teasing us about how many options there are here for every single thing on God’s green earth. He especially noticed this when joining us on a trip to the grocery store.

This experience turned me into a crazy, self-loathing monster who wanted every single item that I could wrap my greedy little fingers around, while simultaneously feeling guilt-ridden at the sight of our grocery cart piling high before Apollo’s astounded face. He’s a great guy, so he didn’t judge us—but he may have been somewhat repulsed by the scene.

Dear Apollo: Watching us indulge in such grotesque undertakings at the grocery store wasn’t fun, but watching you watch me wasn’t fun for me either. You took all the fun out it.

Not only did we discover that the options are boundless in American grocery stores, but we noticed that everything in the store also claims to be healthy—even the margarine. Margarine’s claim to be healthy is as believable as Apollo’s not to be a scared on his first intercontinental flight. We all know it’s not true.

Just like the grocery stores, we have also been stunned by the many new brands of churches. Like all groceries claiming to be healthy, all brands of churches here are claiming to be Christian.

We anticipated the consumerism and indulgences in grocery stores, but we never expected to see the giant shift of consumerism taking place in American “Christianity” as well.

When you have been away from a place for a long time, everything that you see upon re-entry kind of takes you off-guard. It’s not that you are above it or incapable of the same or worse sin; you just see it differently. The things that used to be normal to you start to shake you up a bit. Because you aren’t living in the culture anymore, you have the privilege of standing on the outside looking in.

And I must admit—I am pretty uncomfortable with some things that I see.

Consumerism in the Church

American consumerism has crept into the sacred beliefs of our faith. Rather than understanding that faith in Christ means that he gets our everything, many Americans believe that Jesus is just a nice addition to our already-nice lives. We wouldn’t say that, of course, but our beliefs are exposed in the way we are living.

To be honest, this type of “Christianity” is not only disturbing, but I believe it is a false gospel that is deceitful and damning to our culture.

If Jesus is merely an addition to our American dream, then who really needs one more thing on their plate? If Jesus is just a great way to help us live more moral lives, have better relationships, and slightly-above-ogre behavior at our kid’s soccer games, then who really needs him? Can’t Oprah help us with that?

If we think of Jesus as an addition to our lives and not our everything, then we do not really know Jesus. We are deceived.

If sermons in your church sound more like self-help in living your best life (for Jesus, of course) or simple marital and family advice, then you need to ask yourself some serious questions about what you are being taught. Jesus warns in Mark that many will come to deceive in the name of religion (Matthew 24:5). They will say all the right things, dress in all the right ways, know all the popular prayers and sayings and topics of the times, and they will lead you astray from the path to Jesus.

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